14 August 2019
Statement issued by Sergio Duarte, President of Pugwash, and Paolo Cotta-Ramusino, Secretary General of Pugwash
Pugwash has been promoting conversations and dialogue on the Kashmir issue for over 15 years. Our focus has always been on efforts to normalize the lives of the Kashmiris who have borne the brunt of the dispute. We have therefore been supportive of promoting communications between people, intra-Kashmiri economic activities, and cultural and academic exchanges irrespective of the political dynamics of the dispute at any given point in time. At times these ideas have been promoted and supported in various ways by both Indian and Pakistani political leaders.
As an organization with decades of experience working in nuclear weapons zones and constantly advocating a nuclear weapons-free world, we have always stressed the risk of an India-Pakistan confrontation over Kashmir, given that both countries possess a significant arsenal of nuclear weapons. Earlier this year, we witnessed how easily India and Pakistan can fall into a near-war crisis when a suicide attack on the Indian side of Kashmir (the State of Jammu and Kashmir) led to escalation and an air dog-fight for the first time since 1971.
We have noted with concern the recent decision of the Indian Government to reverse the autonomous status of the State of Jammu and Kashmir. This decision has been accompanied with repression of the political movements and key political leaders of the State have been put under arrest or house arrest (including the former Chief Ministers Omar Abdullah and Mehbooba Mufti, both democratically elected).
Moreover, the entire State of Jammu and Kashmir has been subjected to a harsh lockdown: personal and electronic communications between the State of Jammu and Kashmir and the rest of the world has been severely restrained.
Pugwash remains concerned about the safety and freedoms of the population of Jammu and Kashmir, as well as the seemingly dwindling prospects for peaceful normalization of the situation and, consequently, the rising risks of conflict in the region. Ultimately, we cannot ignore the possibility of a larger military confrontation between India and Pakistan which may escalate and involve the use of nuclear weapons.
Pugwash hopes that the international community will pressure the States of South Asia to find peaceful solutions to this and other conflicts so that the risks of a regional conflict with its attendant significant global consequences can be reduced. Our focus must remain on human well-being and peaceful coexistence. We therefore urge the international community to come together to advocate normalcy of every-day life for the people of the Jammu and Kashmir State. In general, we are also very much concerned about antagonisms that are rooted in religious divisions as they tend to be more resistant to political mediations. The Hindu-Muslim divide is of particular concern in the Kashmiri region.